St. Paul’s Janicke hired to 622 cabinet

From St. Paul to St. Paul ... St. Paul ... and St. Paul, new District 622 administrator Gene Janicke is really stepping out in his first venture outside his home district.

Janicke, 56, grew up on the East Side and graduated from Johnson High School. After getting his education degree at the University of Minnesota, he began teaching industrial technology in the St. Paul district, and was promoted gradually over the next 30-some years until then-new Superintendent Pat Harvey tapped him for an administrative post in 1999.

Currently the executive director of alternative learning programs in St. Paul, Janicke applied for the superintendent position in 622 and was one of three finalists. The district chose Patty Phillips as its superintendent, and Janicke decided he’d retire from St. Paul and concentrate on writing a book about teaching methods. He’d been teaching educators at Hamline University and had honed some methods suited to urban classrooms.

Janicke was so set on this plan that a daily newspaper published a story about his retirement and coming authorship.

Then District 622 called.

"It was intriguing to me that they would call back," Janicke said from his office at St. Paul, where he’s working through the end of June. "I guess that book is just something I’ll have to put up on the shelf for now."

Janicke is filling the "Director of Teaching, Learning and Evaluation" post vacated by Joe Wemette, a longtime district principal and administrator who was hired away by Roseville.

Janicke says there are some strong parallels between the posts; in St. Paul, he’s responsible for about 12,000 students in special programs such as summer school, and that correlates to District 622’s population. In St. Paul, he also works with principals and is responsible for meeting demands of the No Child Left Behind federal program, which will be another of his tasks in District 622.

Janicke’s compensation is also similar between the two districts, "in the neighborhood of $115,000" annually, he says.

Janicke, who lives with his wife in Forest Lake, says he has no immediate changes in mind for District 622.

"My role now would be, number one, to work with the superintendent and support any initiatives she wants to get started in the best way I know how, and to get to know all the principals and school buildings and learning communities."

Janicke says he "certainly regrets" leaving behind the former students, teaching cohorts and families he’s gotten to know for the last 37 years in St. Paul. But he’ll probably continue to be recognized at places like the State Fair.

"Somebody will pull me out of the crowd and say ‘Mr. Janicke — remember me?’" he says. "Sometimes I do, but sometimes I have to step back and try to imagine what this 35-year-old person looked like at 13."

District 622 Board Member Pam Cunningham says she served on a committee that interviewed five candidates for Wemette’s job and she and others were impressed with how well they think Janicke will fit the post.

"My sense of it was he had a good broad-based background ... and, because we’re kind of a suburban/urban school, he fit really well because of all his St. Paul experience," she says. "He has such a positive attitude. I really like him a lot and I think people in the district will too. We were tickled he decided to put retirement on the shelf."

Janicke, who, during what he calls "the short interlude" in which he planned to retire, began a carpet-ripping, wall-painting home remodeling project, won’t have much free time now to pursue it.

"I will retire from St. Paul, with my last day being June 30 and July 1 - a Friday - I’ll have that day off. Then I’ll be starting in North St. Paul-Maplewood July 5," he says. "So I’ll have a one-day retirement."

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